An international human rights group says the stability of the southern Caucasus is threatened by political and economic repression of minorities. The findings are contained in a report issued Friday by Minority Rights Group International, a London-based human rights organization.

The report examines the treatment of minorities in Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. It says minority groups in those countries are being denied access to education, professional opportunities, and political participation.

The director of Minority Rights Group International, Mark Lattimier, says Russian and American concerns about Islamic militant activity in the region have aggravated the problem.

"The situation in the south Caucasus is getting increasingly tense, particularly in Azerbaijan and Georgia," he said. "The Russian federation has security concerns with regard to what they regard as Chechen terrorists on the territory. The United States has particular security concerns with regards to the increase in Islamic nationalism in the area."

Mr. Lattimier adds the emphasis on security could actually lead to greater instability in the south Caucasus.

"I think it is important for the international community as a whole and in particular for countries like the United States to focus on the region as a whole," he went on to say. "To realize that security concerns in one country have a major impact on the stability of the region if they are not handled correctly."

The report recommends that the international community promote a culture of tolerance and mutual respect among the region's ethnic groups.

Also, it calls for Western aid donors to review their projects to make sure minorities are benefited.